In A Galaxy Far Away 1: Launching STAR WARS W/ Brian Wood

So, heard any news about Star Wars lately?

Star Wars #1

As we reach the final days of 2012, the future of Star Wars as a story, a series and a franchise is an exciting mass of potential, promise and speculation. With Disney scooping up Lucasfilm earlier this year, it gives fans a new lease on the future of the franchise and new things to look forward to, from more live-action films to further animated fare like Star Wars: The Clone Wars. And in comics as well, as either by luck or fate Dark Horse is launching a new Star Wars series set square in the classic trilogy with all of the original characters, all for the first time in comics.

And Brian Wood’s writing it.

Best known for his cogent and shrewd creator-owned work like DMZ and Northlanders, Brian Wood’s Star Wars holds the promise of something special for Luke, Leia, Han, Vader and the rest of George Lucas’ cast of characters.. With the series primed to launch on January 9th, we talked with Brian Wood about the series and to officially launch our new monthly column “In A Galaxy Far Away,” bringing you guaranteed Star Wars interviews, articles and more as we enter this bold new era for the franchise.

Newsarama: Thanks for doing this, Brian. First off – how’d you get in the mindset of the style, story and tone that the Star Wars universe was right after the end of A New Hope?

SW #1 Sketch

Brian Wood
: I'm already in that mindset! As a child of the 70's and 80's, this is my Star Wars, not the prequels or Clone Wars, or much of the Expanded Universe. I mean, I've seen all those and read a few dozen of the novels, but when you talk about what's my Star Wars, what I have the emotional attachment to, its the first film, the one from 1977, that I saw as a five year old. This is why I pitched the story I pitched, and why, in addition to the core cast, we have characters like Wedge and Mon Mothma. I know those characters.

Nrama: Dark Horse has been publishing Star Wars comics for decades, but this new series you’re doing seems somehow more special and pivotal than anything that’s come before. Maybe it’s because it’s simply titled “Star Wars”, or maybe because it’s one of the few comic stories that have taken the key classic cast all on board. How does it feel to do Star Wars, and do it in such a major way?

Wood: I think the title has a lot to do with it, yeah. When I came on to the project it didn't have its title yet. I had just launched Conan The Barbarian, which is a series starting at #1 and with the iconic title. I was really hoping they would do the same with Star Wars, and lo and behold. It's flattering, its iconic like I said, it looks great on the bibliography, and I sort of like the challenge of it, the need to really deliver the goods when its presented to the world in this way.

Nrama: You’ve said before that this series picks up right after the end of Episode IV. Can you clue us in and tell us how soon after the first page goes? Is it right after the awards ceremony or where?

Star Wars #1

Interior

Wood
: Pretty much right after. A couple weeks, maybe? I don't specify to that exact a degree, but the Death Star's gone, everyone is still grieving their lost ones (there's a tremendous amount of loss in that first film, one of the things I knew I wanted to deal with), and the Rebel fleet is homeless. This is the situation we are presented with right away on page 1 of the first issue.

Nrama: For most people, the destruction of the Death Star led right into the battle on Hoth, but there was a lot of time between those two events. Can you explain the status of both the Empire and the Alliance as your comic series opens?

Wood: That amount of time is determined, I'm led to understand. It's three years. And yeah, several things happen in between that suggest a bunch of stuff went down. At the end of A New Hope, Vader has no idea who this pilot "strong in the force" is who eludes him in the trench. At the start of Empire, he's calling him by name and clearly running a vast search for both him and the Rebels. I'm not trying to do a lot of bookkeeping or connect the dots with my series, but I do want to build a bridge to explain things like that. Or at least start to.

So, at the start of my story both sides are reeling. The Alliance is homeless, with a decimated fighter fleet and Alderaan, their biggest system, vaporized. The Empire, while able to weather the tremendous loss of the Death Star far better than the Alliance, is still feeling its effects. Vader, specifically, is on the outs with the Emperor for ultimately failing to stop the attack at Yavin 4. Both everyone is recovering and starting to rebuild. In the case of the Empire, that's literal. The second Death Star is already underway.

Nrama: People often forget this, but the three key heroes of Star Wars at this time – Luke, Leia and Han – are all at their lowest points in this time period. Leia lost her family and her entire homeworld, Luke lost Obi-Wan and his adopted parents, and Han forgoes paying off an immense debt to Jabba the Hutt to save his newfound friends. Where are their heads at?

SW #2 Sketch

Wood
: This was the crux of my pitch, exactly this. Luke is completely alone and unmoored. He has NO ONE, only these people he only just met. Han's biggest loss is a loss of freedom and mobility. The Empire knows who he is now in a big way, and so his life as a smuggler is basically over. And Leia... it’s impossible to describe, the loss she's suffering, and on top of that this 19yo girl is now the head of the Rebellion, at least in practical terms, so she has that responsibility as well. I'll add Wedge to that list - the sole survivor of Yavin (besides Luke), he just saw all his friends die in combat, all of them. He'll be carrying around not just grief, but survivor's guilt.

Nrama: One of the things that’s most enticed me is that your series is square in the time period of the Luke/Leia/Han love triangle; before Leia and Han hooked up, and before we found out Luke and Leia are siblings. How are you working with this while also without getting creepily into their later reveal of blood relation?

Wood: Carefully. Actually, in this first arc I'm avoiding it to a large degree. There is a bit of jealousy going on, tension between Luke and Leia, but it’s subtle, and is as much professional as anything else. Protective is a better term for it. And you're right, this is a really tricky thing, writing around something like that. But it’s fun, too.

Nrama: The advance solicits for this series have fans salivating, especially in #2 where it’s mentioned Leia is forming a “stealth squadron.” What can you tell us about Leia and her plans in this series?

Wood: Leia spends a LOT of time in an X-Wing here, as a pilot equal in stature to Wedge and Luke, and close in skill. If there's anything "controversial" in what people already know about my story, its this idea that Leia is a fighter pilot. That she ISN'T one, actually, since we've never seen her doing it. I simply applied logic to the situation: if we, here, learn to drive at age 16, why wouldn't someone in Star Wars learn how to fly as a coming of age thing? Luke did, as a farm boy. Wedge did, working his parent's gas station. Why not Leia, a daughter of privilege? She can handle firearms, she basically takes over her own escape from the Death Star. She survives torture. She BEATS torture, actually. Later we see her on speeder bikes, fixing the Falcon, shooting more dudes, and so on. It's almost insulting to suggest she can't fly an X-Wing, the Rebellion's fighter of choice.

As far as her stealth squadron, yeah, you can get a great look at their black pilot suits on the cover to #2. This is related to their search for a new home world to build a base on, and the problems they face with security leaks, spies, and ambushes. Leia does what she needs to do to get the job done. A generous gift of next-gen fighters from Incom doesn't hurt, either. And like I said, there's a LOT of X-Wing action in this series, multiple full-on dogfights.

Star Wars #2

Nrama
: Another enticing idea here is the mention of Boba Fett – he originally debuted in Empire Strikes Back (and then retroactively in the A New Hope re-release), but you’re having him pop up in this era earlier. How’s it all happen?

Wood: Why not? My favorite bounty hunter is Bossk (and his awesomely named ship, Hound's Tooth), but Boba Fett is a crowd pleaser and in a series full of classic characters, it seemed appropriate.

Nrama: This series is full of all the classic characters, but also a new one you’re introducing on the Empire side. Can you tell us about this new young Imperial officer you’re adding to the Star Wars mythos?

Wood: Colonel Bircher, yes. Thorn in Vader's side. The Emperor uses him to punish Vader, by literally turning Vader's Star Destroyer over to Bircher. Bircher's a rising star. Vader's the guy who cost the Emperor his battle station.

Nrama: Speaking of other characters, will we perhaps be seeing other characters introduced later in the movies this early on in this story between Episode IV and Episode V?

Wood: I think so. We have the two droids, of course. Ben Kenobi, in apparition form - I'm keeping that going. But there's a lot of new characters we get first... a whole squadron of X-Wing pilots, a lady friend for Solo and, in a very weird way, one for Vader...?

Nrama: In your other work like DMZ, The Massive and even Conan the Barbarian and Northlanders you seem to have a keen sense of geography. With Star Wars you’re dealing with planets, solar systems and galaxies – do you keep track of the distances and navigation between worlds?

Star Wars #3

Wood
: Looking at that Star Wars Atlas helped a bit. Now I have a visual sense of the Core, the Inner and Outer Rims, Hutt Space, and so on. I've not had to use it much in a practical sense, and this is the sort of thing that I rely on the editors for. There's just so much continuity, and if there is a planet or a system listed in the Atlas, its because its already been used in some other story somewhere else, and so I often can't do anything with it.

Nrama: Speaking of this – how much traveling is going on in the initial arc you have planned?

Wood: We have a few stable locations: the undisclosed location of the Rebel Fleet, the Kuat Drive Yards where the Empire's ships come from, the sanctuary moon at Endor, and Coruscant/Imperial Center. And then there are several other spots that come and go, as Leia and Co. jump around the universe on their missions.

Nrama: In the planning of this series were there any unexpected surprises in your creative process that you latched onto?

Wood: A few things I outright couldn't do, like destroy the Falcon (and later have it rebuilt), as well as some somewhat suggestive scenes involving people who may or may not be having sex. Which is fine, really, not much of a surprise there. I think once I got the green light to make Leia a pilot I really took it and ran, which has been a lot of fun. I've also written a few scenes that are emotionally tough, one where Leia, in her ranking position, really disciplines Luke in a way that comes off as mean. I thought I might get asked to tone that down, but I didn't.

Nrama: You’re known to really attune yourself with the artists you work with on comics, and for this you’re paired with Carlos d’Anda. He seems to be an expert at tech and also some action here – so how is it working out with you two?

Wood: I've known about Carlos forever. I think he was on the list of possible DMZ artists, way back when. It's really his attention to detail and his professionalism that's valuable here. He makes the story look both current and exciting, but also retro in the sense that it matches up to the 1977 film.

Nrama: Editing you on this is Randy Stradley, who himself has written a number of classic Star Wars stories. What’s it like having an editor like Randy who is so intricately aware of the universe and writing it from time to time?

Wood: Intimidating! He's a Star Wars guru, has written plenty of comics and some of the Clone Wars cartoons. I'm constantly striving to not disappoint him. But that's all in my own head... he's a super nice, really laid back guy, and even though I get a clench of fear every time he calls me on the phone (as I do with most editors, I admit), its always just to chat about some detail or share some cool new update on the project.

Nrama: I found out that right after you signed on to do this series you went to the 2011 Star Wars Celebration convention. As a veteran of comic conventions and a first-time Star Wars writer, what was that experience like for you?

Wood: It was career-changing. It not only made me want to up my game on the book, it was the most positive convention experience of my life. Unlike a major comics convention, there were no booth babes, no trashy cosplayers or sketchy fans, no excessively violent stuff on display, and no dense crowds or stressed out people. Everyone was a true fan, very happy to be there, the cosplayers were amazing, and the whole place had a peaceful vibe. I'm always rushing around and on edge at shows, but this was was pure fun.

Twitter activity